Wednesday, September 10, 2008

So it's been a year...

Sitemeter just sent me an email. Seems people still check this now semi-dead blog.

Up until this day a year ago, I was pretty prolific. Then the bottom fell out. Actually, it was a year ago tomorrow that I received the phone call from my brother that our dad had died. The 10th, though, was the actual date of death. It's like there are two anniversary days to feel funky about.

I'm chuckling to myself that after such a long hiatus, these are the opening words I choose! How uplifting, huh? Sometimes my actions even cause me to wonder...

So. A year. A very, very difficult year has passed. A year of a tumultuous estate that remains contentious (why is the word 'content' part of 'contentious'?), a year of far too much drama in my extended family and in the congregation, a year of continued special needs parenting, and a year of financial woes that are similar to any family with a sole wage earner. I guess if I had the option, I'd want the last 12 months back. Then again, that'd be as nightmarish as reliving junior high. Perhaps I don't want them back afterall. Maybe it's a good thing that we don't have to decide how time moves. Thank God we are given friends who help us through it all.

I hope that as I begin to peek out of the darkness of grief my writing will begin to flourish again. I've been writing a great deal this year - just not here. It's been raw, aching words, sometimes full of anger or desperation, sometimes full of sadness or memories. Grief does that to our words. I imagine grief as a Halloween-looking, boney hand clutching my heart. Some days, its clutch is overwhelming; some days, it is a relaxed hand, still around my heart, ready to clutch at the most unexpected times.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Proud to be an American?

It's the day after the high holy American Civil Religion holiday. I'm sitting here pondering the whole concept of the 4th and I'm finding that my emotions and thoughts are fairly mixed. Yes, I am thankful for many things about this country. At the same time, I have such disgust. That's a difficult thing for an ENFP.

We live in a country that banters loudly "God bless America" yet we seem to forget that God blesses the other nations of the world too. Sometimes, I get the sense that people think that the US is the New Israel - the new Promised Land - and that we take such pride in that. Yet, paradoxically, we fail to take responsibility and to live as co-creators. We have starving people up the ying-yang, many without homes, people who have to claim bankruptcy when they face medical crises, and illegal immigrants that are the new outcasts in the eyes and minds of so many Pharisiacal citizens. We are a country that worships money, getting ahead, and bad theology. There are some things about this country that really irk and sadden me. It's hard to worship or celebrate a place where politics has sunk to the GW levels it has and where we fail to truly strive to live in a just, loving society.

Yesterday morning, I watched an MSNBC special about WalMart - otherwise known in our home as the Evil Empire. While even I have to admit (grudgingly) that there are some redeeming qualities about the mega-MNC, their belief system - as fanatical as a fundamentalist on a rampage - causes my heart to sink. Money and Sam Walton are their gods - everything is focused around these icons. Small, locally owned businesses are decimated and employees are paid substandard and non-living wages. The half who have access to insurance can barely afford their portion of the health care premiums - unless you are the CEO or CFO who make $14 million/year. The suppliers are encouraged to outsource...yeah, there's a pro-American ideal. Many products are produced in China so we can fill our houses with cheap crap that we really don't need. There are 5,000 lawsuits pending against Walmart at any given time. It was said that Walmart is simply the touchstone for the ills and challenges of the USA. Perhaps that is true. But what stunned me was the nonchalance with which this was said - why not set an example and change those challenges? Why not lead the way in helping to solve the ills? No, instead, there was a ho-hum "oh well" attitude that made me ill. Another American touchstone: It Must Be Someone Else's Fault, Not My Responsibility. Argh.

Yet, I must say that I am thankful for the freedom I have to write this. I doubt anyone will knock my door down and force me to remove the post. I doubt I'll be arrested for standing against the tides of ACR. Freedom of Speech is a precious thing that we probably all take for granted.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Here Kitty Kitty Kitty...

The other night, I came home around 10pm and Arwen was outside. Normally, we keep the cats inside at night.

I got out of the van and tried to coax her toward me. She ran under Rab's truck.

I went over to the truck and Arwen moved just out of my reach and lay down.

I walked around to the back tire to reach her and she moved to the front tire.

I walked over to the front tire - in my defense, the garage was DARK - and I...well...ummm....I stepped on a rake and slammed myself hard in the head. I had an instant goose egg. And now, days later, it still hurts.

Go ahead and laugh. My family did. In fact, they are still laughing. Rab has been calling me "my little cartoon character."

So my sister told a friend who told another friend who, when she heard the story, responded, "She did not...that only happens in cartoons." In cartoons and in my life. Same difference.

They Grow Up So Fast...

Minky and I had a "date" the other night. We went to Culvers. That guy really knows how to party.

On our way home, I was sharing with him that we have plans to go to Waterparkopia in June 2009. Minky responded, "So Sony will be 13 then..."

Me: "Yep, I guess he will."

Minky: (big wistful sigh) "They grow up so fast..."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Once again, she says "It's been awhile..."

So what's been going on with me? Well...
  • We're undertaking a redecorating effort at Jordan. Depending upon the meeting, there are anywhere from 4-6 attendees who consider themselves team members. Therefore, there are nearly always 4-6 divergent opinions on colors, styles, money and taste. The male dominated Council that recently spent thousands on a new riding mower does not understand why $500 is not enough to overhaul the facility.
  • Jerusalem just had its city wide garage sale this weekend. I think Rab and I spent about $100. It wasn't that there were really that many amazing finds...instead, it's more like we actually did something in town and bought a bunch of junk we don't need. Haul from the excitement includes: a pipe wrench, the McCullough John Adams book ($1.oo), some rubber stamps, a dart board for each kids' room, a cool hammock chair thing, a nice bike for Rab, some clothes for Minky, an arrowhead for Sony, the award-winning movie Daredevil, a fountain (that the cat thinks is for her drinking water), a bunch of baskets, and a bag full of various kinds of tape. I think we'll hold a garage sale next week...
  • The estate drama drags on without much relief. I'll spare you the maddening details.
  • The dog is nearly hooked on Acepromazine - his anti-anxiety drug needed during storms. Yeah, I know, go ahead and laugh. Yes, we have a special needs dog who needs to be drugged during storms. Kinda fits us, right?
  • We continue to update, improve and paint the Cute Gray House. We've now painted the dining room, living room, entry, master bedroom (wallpaper removal and trim only), Minky's room (Pirates of the Caribbean theme), Sony's room (space theme), and upper bath. We've removed wallpaper from all these rooms except the entry. What's left? The master bedroom (new color), play room, Rab's office and lower bath. The kitchen wallpaper border also needs to come down, but that's the least of our worries.
  • Outdoors, Rab has fixed a walkway, planted a bunch of stuff, and improved the lawn that I ran over inadvertently during the snow thaws. We need to re-lay the walkway and parts of the sidewalk as well as do some touch up painting on the front porch. Next year, we'll tackle the backyard and maybe even the garage and a new breezeway connecting the garage to the house..
  • Sony earned a 3.7 in school this year. Next year, he'll enter 7th grade. He had a friend spend the night not long ago and has begun to spend more and more time with new friends around Jerusalem. It's great to see him find his groove. He's 5'1'' - a little too close to my height!
  • Minky is really doing great. He's certainly still feisty but his outbursts have become fewer and farther between. He'll go into 4th grade next year. Rab tells me I need to stop treating Minky like a toddler. Maybe I need a new baby (not!). Minky spends as much time as possible at the pool and has a pretty sweet looking dive.
  • Rab continues to be a stay at home dad. It's like having a wife with handyman skills. He spoils me rotten, really. I get coffee in bed most mornings. Life is good.
  • We've got tickets to 3 different Buffett shows this summer. I'm excited to share the excitement with some Buffett virgins who'll go with us to one of the shows. Rab and I will actually escape to Chicago for a few days in July to see those shows.
  • I've been walking to work. I'm hoping to lose some weight. I don't think walking to work will solve the whole problem, but at least it won't make matters worse.
  • Life is a crazy mix of work, home, and escapes to cities. Overall, we're beginning to find our groove here in Jerusalem. In a lot of ways, that's really nice.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Minky Continues His Loving Words...

Rab was drinking this thing that is supposed to lower his cholestorol.  I asked him what it was and after he told me, Minky replied, "Too bad it doesn't make your hair grow back!"

Friday, April 18, 2008

Revelations and Reminders from the Castle

I went to the Castle yesterday for continuing ed. I was able to hang around there after the event and visit with old friends. As I drove home, I mused about the trip.
  1. Being with people who truly know you and love you anyway is good for the soul. Really good for the soul.
  2. Along the same lines as #1, being with people who know you well enough to give you a hard time is refreshing.
  3. Occasionally being able to be fully authentic and not worry so much about weighing your words or crafting a message is a necessary element of pastoral survival.
  4. Oh, that's right, politics really are everywhere.
  5. Laughter is the best medicine for all that ails.
  6. Even an old friend can be full of surprises. I ordered a medium margarita at lunch that, to my surprise, was probably about 24-32 ounces. As we all got ready to leave the restaurant, I protested that I couldn't leave until the margarita was finished. Pastor Kindhearted picked up the margarita glass like a chalice, grabbed a napkin, and proceeded to "common cup" my drink around the table. I haven't laughed so hard in months.
  7. I treasure my friends. I really treasure my friends. I didn't realize quite how lonely I am in Jerusalem with so little social life until I once again experienced a social environment. Along the same lines, I really treasure Rab who is perhaps my only close true friend in Jerusalem.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy Birthday to Mommy

The boys were talking about my upcoming 40th birthday. I asked Minky what he was going to give me. Without pause, he responded, "Wrinkle cream!"

My New T-Shirt

I just bought a new t-shirt from! Here's what it says:

Because I couldn't help myself, I wore it to my local clergy group. I affectionately refer to them as "the boys." The group is made up of pastors from the UCC, Methodist, Catholic, local fundy church and my congregation.

The UCC'er, upon seeing the shirt, loved it. The Methodist tried to pretend he wasn't reading it. He also addressed his prayer before our meal to "Heavenly Father" and threw in a couple "Father God"s along the way. The local fundy just plainly didn't get it. With a confused look on his face, he said, "Is that a good thing????" "Oh yes!" I replied. "It means that I too can be made in God's image!" He just looked at me with complete bewilderment.

Sometimes I just love messing with people.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Second Wave

I was warned about this - the return of grief that would come on with a vengeance about 6 months after Dad's death. I suppose, when I look back, it didn't surprise me. There have been warning signs the last few weeks - a bout with influenza and a subsequent virus attacking a suppressed immune system, I've been wearing my long hair up in a makeshift bun more days than not because I don't have the energy to anything else, the return of a dread of mornings that make it nearly impossible to get out of bed. Today, it seems like every song I hear is somehow related to Dad or memories of our shared times together. The oppressive weight of apathy has once again found its home in the core of my body and spirit. I just want to hide away from the world. The tears well up far too easily.

After all this time, I still find myself preparing to call him to share exciting news or the day's challenges. I still find myself stunned by the reality that he is gone. I catch myself going through the motions much more than I'd like. I feel like there's a rock attached to my chest. Grief, in a word, sucks.

In some ways, the grief is harder this time. The initial fog of the early days has lifted and now the weight of Dad's death is more evident, more stark, more real. It certainly doesn't help that family tied up with Dad's trust continues to disappoint, sadden and frustrate me as they make decision one could only understand as selfish greed. There really is no other feasible explanation. My heart breaks on Dad's behalf as I stand by while they squander and misappropriate his money and the business around which he defined himself for many years. The situation makes me sick to my stomach.

I look around the Cute Gray House that he was supposed to come help fix up this Spring. At times, I catch myself throwing my grief-related anger toward the house that Dad will never see and never grace with his creative ideas. I'll never hear him comment as he walks through the house amazed by all there is to do to it. I'll never share a paintbrush or power tool with him as he explains procedural things I really don't care about so long as the house is fixed up.

When Dad was around, there were whole categories (e.g., wills, business plans, house repairs, cars) that I didn't even have to think or know about. I could just call him and he'd swell with fatherly pride at having been asked to share his wisdom and insights. Sometimes, it used to drive me nuts because, in his book, there was usually only one right way to do something. Now, I miss it desperately.

Easter was an interesting experience this year. Quite frankly, I didn't feel much like proclaiming life as my blackened heart continued to sink deeper and deeper into pain and sadness. It was difficult to put together a sermon and the Holy Week services looked similar to the ones of 2007. I didn't have energy to do otherwise. Once again, though, the Holy Spirit wove into the experience and I was surprised to hear words come out of my mouth that I myself needed to hear: words of "We are so ridden with grief that we forget our calling," and "your fear is not gone but it no longer holds you can go on despite the suffering, you can take the next step because you are not alone." I was astonished to receive a lovely letter from a visitor who was here at Easter. The sermon, she said, was meaningful and inspirational. She even called the service "joyful" - have I become that proficient of an actress?

This second wave of grief seems threatening, ready to swallow me up once again and pull me down in its undertow. I know with certainty that lifeguards (aka friends, colleagues) are all around and, for that, I'm thankful. They may not take the pain away but they certainly keep the undertow from winning.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

You know you're an ENFP when...

You know you're an ENFP when...

you're laying in bed and your children's choir director calls you at 7:15...ummmm 8:15... to alert you to the fact that you forgot to change your clocks and to remind you that service starts in 15 minutes.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Come Monday, It'll Be Alright

I love Mondays. I especially love Mondays when
Jimmy Buffett tickets go on sale. The ice and snow are layered upon the pavement. The cool winter thermometer dips below 20 degrees and and (unfortunately...) provide a light of hope at the end of the dark winter tunnel. Buffett? Jimmy Buffett?! As in, Margaritaville, paradise, pirates and parrots?! Could it be?! Yet another coming of the great Margarita god? Yes, my children, it's true. The savior of summer is on his way. The earth will breathe again. The sun will shine again. And I'll be right there watching it happen...on 3 different occasions. God is indeed good.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Bit of An Update

It's been so long since I've consistently shared my daily musings...

Here's just a few of the random thoughts clogging my brain:

- Record snowfall. Here in Jerusalem, we've had over 70" of snow this winter. We've proudly beat the record set in 1978. Hint: if you want to hear about the winter of 78 (or 82 or 26 or 39...), just ask any local. They'll be glad to give you a play-by-play of each snowflake, abandoned car on County roads, and not-so-daring stories of how they survived.

- Minky. Minky is studying dental health in school. He's actually considered the idea of brushing his teeth without being reminded.

- Minkyism. The other day, my mom told Mink that she was hoping to come visit for my birthday this Spring. She apologized for not being able to make it for his birthday, to which he replied flatly, "It's ok, Gramma. I'm used to you never being here for my birthday."

- Rab. Rab, in his ongoing soft-pedalling midlife crisis, continues to ponder what occupation is calling to him. In the meantime, he's continuing to be a stay at home dad. The role shift is a little weird, but overall it's really a great thing. And it definitely gives the locals something to be fully and deeply confused about. Rab's arranged an after-school routine and homework regime, and he's redone Minky's bedroom (bright, licorice red, pictures forthcoming). Rab's still in midstream with redoing the dining room. Please don't ask how long I've been living with a multi-colored (all bad), patched up dining room. The topic only makes me cranky.

- Sony. Sony is doing really great (big surprise, I know). He's thoroughly enjoying middle school and voluntarily comes to Confirmation each week with great fervor. He's actually not supposed to start confirmation until 7th grade, but heck, if the kid wants to be at church I'm certainly not going to stop him. Maybe his enthusiam about confirmaiton can help asuage my guilt over all the times I left the kids at home on Sunday with Rab so that I could worship peacefully.

- Spiritual Direction training. I continue to love SDDP (the acronym for my spiritual direction training program). I met my supervisor a few weeks ago and she rocks. much as a peaceful, calm nun can rock anyway. I'm loving the reading. I'm grudgingly getting through the required verbatims (argh...memories of CPE!).

- Estate of My Greatest Fan. I'm still serving as personal representative for my Dad's estate. For awhile there, my sister was calling every day with her anxiety and panic about the business buyout. She has some reason to be frustrated but it really began to wear on me personally. We ended up serving a notice to creditors to a nearby business that may (but really shouldn't) have interest in my dad's dough due to contamination of the land we own now. For the meantime, we're waiting out the 30 day notice period and the break in daily decisions and news is a welcome one. The entire estate stuff, overall, has been a real source of disappointment and energy drain. It's a long story I'm fairly sure I shouldn't share here (and you, dear reader, probably really don't want to hear it anyway). I talked to one of our lawyers yesterday and in order to transfer one of Dad's investments, I have to get a "Medallion Signature Guarantee" on a bunch of papers. Well, as one might imagine, Jerusalem has no bank that offers such a service. As soon as the paperwork arrives, I'll be heading about 35 miles North to get to a bank that can provide the service. Just where the hell am I living?!!?!?!?

- Therapy. Ever since Dad died, I've been sustained and strengthened by therapy. I'm so thankful for it. Just wanted to share.

- More Minky news. We've started with a new psychologist/psychiatrist team. They're solid, reputable, good guys with a no prisoners attitute. Last night, Rab and I introduced THE NEW PLAN, which includes black and white rules, clear cut boundaries, an all-or-nothing points system and other counter-intuitive (to me) stuff. As we were stating that part of the plan includes the expectation that there will no longer be discussion or negotiation on Minky's part, he interupted with, "Well, what if I really have something I need to say?"

If you've made it this far, I'm impressed. Hope to hear from you and to find out if anyone is even still checking the blog.

Urban Planning in a Small Town

Last night, I went to the big meeting about the hopes for a community center. There were 6 people there... These folks, along with 2 or 3 others who couldn't make it to the meeting, are hoping to arrange for a community center with a 400-person capacity. The two nearest towns have ones that provide 200-250 person capacity.

On the one hand, the meeting was an interesting study is big city dreams/small town life. On the other hand, it showed me just how clueless I am about Jerusalem. As location possibilities were discussed, each was referenced by what used to be in the space: "you know, by the old dairy depot," "out by Ozzie's old farm," "the old school (which is ridden with asbestos), and, my favorite, "at the old pickle plant." There was also talk about some place that used to have something to do with chickens...
I'm still musing about the fact that I live in a town that used to have a pickle plant. Maybe when pigs fly and this center is built, it could be the memorial pickle parlor.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I wonder if my Hebrew prof will create a blog now

Hey all you Old Testament scholars - did you hear the news? You can now publish a blog in HEBREW! Just thought I'd share the joy.

Here's a keyboard layout to help your publishing efforts:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Christ Among Us

Shuffler came through our church doors one morning during coffee hour. Everyone pretended not to see him and his companion, Smiley. Shuffler and Smiley were different. Their clothes were a bit dissheveled, they were rough around the edges, they didn't fit in here. While we pray each week for new people to come through the doors, these are not the type of new people the congregation meant.

Nonetheless, Shuffler and Smiley said "please" and "thank you" as they received the warmed up with some coffee and a treat. Nobody approached them. In fact, everyone avoided them. I noticed this and my heart sank.

After a few minutes, I walked over and introduced myself to Shuffler and Smiley. We had a wonderful conversation. All eyes in the room were on the 3 of us. After Shuffler and Smiley left, I was inundated with questions, "Who are those people?" "Why don't they worship with us?" "Did they really just come for free coffee?!" "Where do they live? Why were they here?" My response was simple: "Oh, Shuffler and Smiley? They are great folks - you should introduce yourself next time they come." If the questions persisted, I responded, "I know the answer but you should ask Shuffler and Smiley directly. They'd enjoy talking with you."

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mitt Romney Scares the Hell Out of Me

After a week (well...beginning on Wednesday) of sprinting a ministry marathon including several multi-hour trips to and at the next town's hospital, two congregation deaths, a funeral, a major Minky meltdown this afternoon, the worst confirmation class ever, and a migraine (big surprise huh?), I turned on the Republican debate after a nap (or shall I call it an exhausted collapse?). Yep, I really know how to relax - watch the candidates from the political party that disgusts me on many levels.

Mitt Romney dared to assert some ridiculous statistic that many uninsured people in the USA make over $70,000/year. On issue after issue, it was crystal clear that this guy doesn't get it. I also wonder how he can call himself a Christian* when so many of his policies are so full of injustice (my major beef with Republicans overall but even more so with this nut). I'm glad to hear that he's slipped in the polls. I think I'd have to move to Canada if American voters were stupid enough to elect this guy.

* - I know some Christians don't consider Mormons to be Christian, but my understanding is that Mormons think of themselves as Christians.